The Draft Lakshadweep Panchayat Regulations [hereafter referred to as “Draft Regulations”) were released to the public for feedback on February 25, 2021. According to Rule 14 of the Draft Regulations, anybody with more than two children is unable to join or continue as a member of the Gram Panchayat. While it has received a lot of criticism, this isn’t the first time a regulation like this has been suggested. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, as well as Gujarat, Odisha, and Uttarakhand, have such legislation. The state of Assam is the most recent addition to the list. Not just the two-child policy, but other laws such as the prohibition on cow slaughter and meat, selling liquor to visitors, property acquisition rights, and anti-social activities regulations have all caused political upheaval on the island. These are the five new regulations that have thrown Lakshadweep’s current situation into disarray. According to the Population Foundation of India, the Lakshadweep administration’s attempt to enforce a two-child limit defies all logic because the Union Territory (UT) has a low Total Fertility Rate (TFR) and an elderly population.
THE TWO-CHILD NORM POLICY (LAKSHADWEEP)
The government of Lakshadweep has proposed a new panchayat law that would render anyone with more than two children ineligible to run in panchayat elections. According to clause 14 of the proposed regulation, people having more than two children are unable to run for panchayat elections. A person with more than two children cannot join or remain a member of a panchayat. The proviso to Rule 14(n) of the Draft Regulations states that the two-child restriction would not apply retroactively and that the disqualification would not apply to anybody who has a child or more than one child within one year of the Rules’ implementation. In 2019, the Uttarakhand High Court ruled that the Uttarakhand Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Act, 2019, which includes identical disqualifications, was constitutional as long as it did not apply retroactively. Furthermore, the rule’s Explanation specifies that a child does not include an adopted child for the purposes of section (n). As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Javed(supra), as well as later judgments by other High Courts, state governments are within their powers to adopt a rule excluding individuals having more than two children.
THE CONTROVERSEY BEHIND THE REGULATORY OVERSIGHT
The proposed legislation is irrational and suicidal. Lakshadweep has a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 1.4, which is lower than the national average of 2.2 and a reason for worry, according to the National Health and Family Survey – 5 (NFHS) 2019-2020. During the decade 2001-2011, the Union Territory’s overall population growth rate fell to 6.3 per cent, down from 17.19 per cent in 1991-2001.
Furthermore, there is little evidence that a two-child limit is successful even in states with high fertility rates. Similar measures in other states have failed to achieve the intended reduction in fertility rates. According to five-state research conducted by Nirmala Buch, a former senior IAS official, states that implemented the policy saw an increase in sex-selective and unsafe abortions.
There was an increase in sex-selective and unsafe abortions in states that implemented a two-child policy; men divorced their spouses to compete for local body elections, and families gave up children for adoption to avoid disqualifying. The proposed legislation might have a negative impact on Lakshadweep’s sex ratio of 1,187 girls for 1000 men (NFHS 5). A misguided attempt to impose a two-child limit in Lakshadweep may likewise alter UT’s healthy sex ratio.
IF THERE ARE ANY STATES THAT FOLLOW A SIMILAR SET OF RULES?
A ‘small family,’ according to the Maharashtra Civil Services (Declaration of Small Family) Rules, 2005, is defined as one with two children, and anyone with more than two children after 2005 is ineligible for a government post. The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal has ruled that modest families are the rule, and that exception can only be made in “fair and reasonable” situations; otherwise, there can be no divergence from the rule. A similar exclusion is found in Section 19 of the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994. A person can’t be chosen as a member if they have more than two live children. A comparable clause was added to the Gujarat Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, in 2005. If a person has more than two children, he is prohibited from being elected under Section 10 of the Act. Almost all of these rules include a caveat that the prohibition will not apply to anybody who has more than two children at the time of the provision’s enactment, as long as the number of children does not rise after the date of the provision’s enactment. In Madhya Pradesh, a candidate with more than two living children, one of whom was born on or after January 26, 2001, is disqualified from being appointed to government services, including the higher judiciary, under sub-rule (6) or Rule 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Civil Services (General Condition of Services) Rules, 1961.
SOME IMPORTANT FEATURES OF THE NEW POLICY AND WHY THEY ARE REQUIRED.
- Cow Slaughter and Beef- The Administration has made a request to ban the slaughtering of cows, calves, bulls, and bison without a declaration from a competent body. It prohibits the sale, transportation, and storage of meat and beef products. A one-year jail sentence and a fine of Rs10, 000 are possible penalties.
- Serving alcohol to tourists – The administration has decided to allow alcohol to be offered at populated island resorts. Denial is now in place on all fully populated islands, with alcohol available only at resorts on the uninhabited Bangaram Island. Alcohol permits will be granted only to resorts for visitors, not to locals, according to the Dist Collector.
- Land acquisition powers – The Administration proposed the Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation (LDAR), which would regulate the development of settlements on the islands and make significant changes to the way land may be purchased and used. It mentions the creation of “planning regions” and “planning and development authority” for the purpose of producing a land-use map and registry, presumably for big projects.
NEED FOR NEW REGULATION IN LAKSHADWEEP
It seeks to alter the usage in Lakshadweep by empowering the public authority with arbitrary, subjective, and uncontrolled powers. This, in turn, is directly interfering with the island’s residents’ right to inhabit and maintain their property. The Regulation also empowers the government to choose any site for “advancement” activities carried out under its guidelines. When the land is chosen, it may be used in any way that the public authority thinks suitable. In view of the fact that the property would be accommodated for a “public cause,” this suggests that the proprietor would have no authority over the land at all. Improvement is defined as “building, designing, mining, quarrying, or other tasks in, on, finished, or under land, the cutting of a slope or any bit, or the creation of any material change in any structure or land, or in the utilization of any structure or land, and includes sub-division of any land” in this draught report. The planned upgrade will be carried out with the least possible impact on the island’s biological system, which is considered an economically protected area. It will be in line with the larger goal of sustainable development and will be supported by Lakshadweep’s Integrated Islands Management Plan (IIMP).
Lakshadweep is a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean with a population of around 70 thousand inhabitants. According to the most recent data, the Island’s population increase in the second millennium is anticipated to be approximately 3%, compared to 6.30 per cent in the first. Even before the two-child restriction was introduced, it was clear that the population increase rate had slowed. Lakshadweep’s two-child policy has been compared to a number of other comparable regulations around the country. However, it is important to note that the entire population of the Lakshadweep Islands is negligible in comparison to the States against which it has been weighed. This raises the issue of whether the draught laws were adopted only for the sake of population control and family planning, or if they have hidden agendas, as the residents of Lakshadweep suspect.